At this particular court session, Associate Judge Rob Hofmann did not have to make an Solomonesque decisions.Hofmann
, 32, wore a trim gray suit as he
presided over a session Monday of the recently formed Child Protection Court of the Hill Country.It is a "cluster court" of six counties that hears cases involving abused and neglected children.Hofmann, the court's first judge, began hearing cases on April 1.
Monday is his
court day in Brown County.He
holds court in the county courtroom, normally occupied by Brown County Judge Ray West, on the first floor of the Brown County Courthouse.
The court was created to help take the load off of district court judges, who typically have presided over the cases previously - in addition to dockets that are crowded with other cases, including felony, civil and other matters of family law.
The decisions Hofmann faced in Monday session were simple ones, as these types of cases go.He
denied a motion to transfer the case to county.
...During Monday's session, Hofmann, Brown County Attorney Shane Britton, attorney Nita Meador - who represented the mother - and attorney Mark Bessent, appointed to represent the children, used legal phrases such as "continuing exclusive jurisdiction" and "excluding jurisdiction."
asked the attorneys in the case.
"Thank you very much."He
clicked off a tape recorder, and the 45-minute court session was over.As an associate judge, Hofmann, who previously served as Mason County Attorney, is charged with hearing abuse and neglect cases involving children in custody of Child Protective Services.
The counties in the court's jurisdiction are Brown, Kimble, Mason, McCulloch, Menard
Seated on the bench, Hofmann
answered a reporter's questions that were sandwiched around Monday's court session.He
said it was his
third or fourth session in Brown County
"It's pretty different, but I really have enjoyed it," he
said of his
is still getting used to the idea of being called "judge."
"Everyone has been so cordial to me here in Brown County," he
has long had an interest in matters involving the welfare of children.For one thing, his wife, Shannon, is a school teacher.
Conversations with her
students bolstered his
concern for children.
As Mason County
was responsible for prosecuting juveniles charged with crimes.With juvenile justice, Hofmann
said, the goal is rehabilitation, not punishment.
"Of course, you have to consider the safety of society, and the safety of the victims," he
said, but noted that "we had a lot of children where you could see they were going down the wrong path."Hofmann also served on the Child Welfare Board, and was involved in a ministry at his church, First United Methodist, that focused on youth.And he served on the board of directors of a shelter-type facility called the Advocacy Center, which he described as a "kid-friendly" place where children who are the victims of crime or abuse are taken for interviews.
When the child protection court was created, he
said, "it was something that interested me a great deal."
As the new court's judge, he
said, the cases affect him.
"They're certainly very serious matters," he
said, noting that he
has terminated the parental rights of two sets of parents since he
began hearing cases.
"The underlying theme of the court .... is the best interest of the children, and that's what we have in mind," he
feels good about what he
said, because it means either giving abused or neglected children a chance at a new beginning - or giving adults a second chance at being parents.
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